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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  May 8, 2014 12:00pm-2:01pm EDT

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the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or wishing to change their vote? if not, the ayes are 56, the nays are 40, and the motion is agreed to. the clerk will report the nomination. the clerk: james d. peered son of wisconsin to be united state. peterson of wisconsin to be united states district judge. cloture motion. we, the undersigned senators in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate, hereby move to bring to a close the debate on the nomination of nancy j. rosenstengel of illinois to be united states district judge for the southern district of illinois. signed by 17 senators. the presiding officer: by unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum call has been waived. the question is: is it the sense of the senate that debate on the nomination of nancy j.
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rosenstengel of illinois to be united states district judge for the southern district of illinois, shall be brought to a close? the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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vote:
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the presiding officer: do any senators wish to vote or change their votes? if not, the ayes are 54, the nays are 4 and the motion is agreed to. the clerk will report the nomination. the clerk: nancy j. rosenstengel of illinois to be united states district judge for the southern district of illinois. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the clerk will report the hamamoto nomination. the clerk: department of state, pamela k. hamamoto of hawaii to be representative to the organization and other organizations in geneva. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. mr. casey: i ask unanimous consent to yield back all time. the presiding officer: without objection. all time is yielded back.
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the question occurs on the hamamoto nomination. all those in favor say aye. all opposed say nay. the ayes have it. the nomination is confirmed. mr. casey: madam president, i ask unanimous consent that the time until 1:45 be equally divided. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. casey: madam president, the senator from kansas will speak, and i will follow. the presiding officer: without objection. the senator from kansas. mr. moran: madam president, thank you for the recognition. i would ask unanimous consent to speak in morning business. officer sphe withouthe presidint objection. mr. moran: i am here to pay tribute to an exceptional woman in my hometown. she is retiring from a career of aiding victims of domestic
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violence across northwest kansas. charlotte is concluding more than 25 years of service to options, domestic sexual violence services, with half of her time in the role as its executive director. back home in the rural parts of our states where the doors are left unlocked and most people know everyone else, we often know that domestic violence doesn't occur on our streets or in our homes or to people in families that we know. unfortunately, that is not the reality. and evidence clearly indicates that that's not the case. since options opened its door 30 years ago under the name of northwest kansas domestic and sexual violence services, 18,000 kansans throughout our state's counties have been assisted in seeking a safe environment. there are locations in hayes and colby.
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almost from the very beginning, sahara hot was there working to help those in need. she has offered compassion and strength and hope to those who walked through options' doors or called the hotline. her coworkers describe her as passion, spunkiness and one of the nicest people. from my time living in hayes and visiting options, i can attest to those attributes. these characteristics are what made charlotte so very effective in her job. those who come to options are bruised physically and emotionally and they find the staff at options understanding. effective leadership has made this an effective organization. last year our state's attorney general presented options with the outstanding organization for 2013, an award at its 16th annual crime victims' rights conference. mindful that domestic and sexual violence is a scourge not just in northwest kansas but
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throughout our state and society, charlotte told the audience, options accepts this award in honor of all programs throughout the state. charlotte would be the first to say that great things can't happen through one person's work alone. so i also wish to commend all who staff options, who sit on its board of directors, who raise money and the outside groups and individual whose tirelessly work to protect the vulnerable in our communities. i also want to acknowledge her husband larry and her four children who have supported her as she has devoted so much of her life, so much of her time to helping other families. charlotte is retiring but not until july 1. and for as long as she's on the job, she's hard at work to solidify her agency's mission. she will lead a capital gain with the goal of $250,000.
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and she will mening tear the new executive director. she plans to still work once a month at the shelter house as an advocate. charlotte leaves huge shoes to fill for the next executive director. but with the foundation that charlotte and others have laid, options will be helping those in need -- our neighbors, our friends, sometimes even our relatives -- for years to come. thank you, charlotte. best wishes. i'm glad you lived your life in a way that was committed to helping others. i yield the floor. mr. casey: madam president? the presiding officer: under the previous order, with regard to the hamamoto nomination, the motion to reconsider b is considered made and laid on the table and the president will be notified of the senate's action. the senator from pennsylvania. mr. casey: thank you, madam president. madam president, i rise this
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afternoon to discuss the recent events in syria and the united states repons to the crisis. yesterday i had the opportunity to meet with president ahmad jarva of the syrian national coalition to hear firsthand about the assad regime's intolerable violations of international law and human rights norms. i'll begin by reviewing the situation as it stands today. more than three years since the fighting first began, the conflict in syria rages on. the fighting has driven more than 2.4 million refugees out of the country and displaced 6.5 million more syrians inside of syria itself. the violence is so terrible that the united nations has stopped estimating the death toll. according to the syrian observatory for human rights, at
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least 150,000 syrians have been killed. this conflict has had a disproportionate effect on children in syria. a safe the children report indicates that at least 1.2 million children have fled to neighboring countries while about 10,000 have died in the violence. the assad regime has used every available tactic to terrorize the syrian people. some civilians have resorted to eating grass as desperately needed humanitarian and food aid has been withheld from besieged communities. the whir of helicopter blades also portends barrel-bomb strikes that we've heard so much about that could easily land on a school, a hospital, or an applican-- oran apartment block.
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assad's force dropped a barrel bomb in aleppo. this attack killed 25 children. this kind of activity by the assad regime, she is actio thes, are, in a word, "intolerable." yesterday the remaining opposition fighters in homes, once an opposition stronghold, were evacuated under u.n. supervision. if my colleagues here in the senate have not yet seen the images of holmes, i'd urge each of them to take a look at them. the ancient city of homs is absolutely destroyed. in the midst of this, mr. assad declared his candidacy for reelection. although presidential elections in syria have never been free and fair, this one, the one that
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he has declared his candidacy for, is a farce and we could add other words to that as well. this is an attempt by mr. assad to legitimatize the extension of his brutal rule. madam president, bashar al-assad lost his legitimacy a long time ago. what concerns me and so many others is this: assad believes he is winning. he believes he can starve, bomb, and terrorize the syrian people into submission. in light of all this, it's incumbent upon the united states to take action, to change or at least help to change the momentum on the battlefield. our national security interests are clear and have been even more clear in the recent days. first, the iranian regime
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status, as the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, is well-established and its proxies have perpetrated attacks against the united states, against israel, and against our allies. emboldened by the iranian regime's support, hezbollah has conducted attacks against u.s. targets and western interests. the assad regime has been an important conduit between iran and hezbollah. as such, they're fighting side by side with the regime forces in syria and providing the regime much-needed supplies and financial assistance. it's also abundantly clear that russia simply does not share our interests in the region. i guess that's an understatement. russia has continued to back the regime. it has consistently blocked u.s. actions at the u.n. security
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council, including efforts to invoke chapter 7 authorization to enforce existing security council resolutions 2118 and 2139. russia continues to provide the regime material assistance, including ammunition, weapons, airplanes, and spare parts that are keeping the regime afloat. from syria to ukraine, it is clear that president putin's approach to foreign policy is rooted in old cold war regrets. madam president, the administration has taken steps to respond to the protracted conflict in syria. let me outline a few. first, on chemical weapons: the agreement negotiated last fall has led to the vast majority of the syrian regime's declared chemical weapons stockpiles being removed from
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syria, taking most of these dangerous weapons off the table was a great step forward. however, i remain concerned about reports that the regime could keep the remaining 8% of those chemical weapons as an insurance policy. equally if not more concerning, are indications that the assad regime retains secret stockpiles of chemical weapons that we cannot account for. further, the regime's use of chlorine gas attacks to terrorize syrian civilians demonstrates categorically that assad will never abide by the spirit of that agreement, even an agreement that has led to that 92% removal. here's -- here's what he won't fully agree to: to stop using
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chemical weapons against his own people in clear violation of international law. second, on humanitarian assistance that the administration has supported efforts to reduce -- to increase and to reduce the suffering: our state department and usaid must be commended for mobilizing a tremendous aid effort. american taxpayers have contributed over $1.7 billion in humanitarian assistance, both inside of syria and in its neighborhood. this important assistance has fed, clothed, vaccinated, and sheltered syrians displaced by the fighting. however, the humanitarian crisis remains, as david milivan put it, "a defining, humanitarian emergency of this century." unquote. so much more remains to be done
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just on the humanitarian challenge in and of itself. since the beginning of this conflict, i have been calling for a more robust response by the united states. yesterday when i met with the mr. jarv anchts the president of the syria national coalition, while we discussed the situation in syria and while we know this issue is terribly complicated, his bottom-line message to me -- and he'll, i'm sure, be saying this to other american officials well -- here's what his message was. "without significant support from the united states of america, the fighting will continue i and a potential solution will not be reached." we must act to change the battle's momentum and to fundamentally shift mr. assad's calculus. as long as he believes that there are no real consequences
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for his actions, he will continue to defy the u.n. security council? as such, and because of this, i've sent a letter to president obama today which asked him to consider some next steps. madam president, i would ask consent that my letter to the president dated today be added to the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. casey: thank you, madam president. let me outline some of the things that i set forth in the letter. first, i asked that the president seriously consider allowing the deployment of lethal assistance to the moderate military opposition. a serious effort to help narrow the gulf between the moderate opposition and the better-trained and better-equipped extremist fighters would not only boost morale in the free syria army but could actually change the momentum of the battle.
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yesterday president jarva expressed his commitment to continuing to fight extremist forces. he made that commitment to me, and i'm sure he'll reiterate it to others. there's no question that there are risks here. but the greater risk is allowing syria to fall into the hands of extremists and to allow the regime to murder thousands more syrians and prevail in this conflict. if the administration judges that it has the confidence in mr. jarva's pledges and we have conducted sufficient vetting of key opposition commanders, it should either consider allowing our partners in the region to supply lethal aid or consider providing such weapons ourselves. i have not and will not advocate
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for american boots on the ground in this conflict. but giving moderate opposition forces the assistance they need to stem assad's reign of terror and drive back foreign extremist fight certificates in our national -- fighters is in our martial interest. second, my letter urges president obama to resume the push for a chapter 7 authorization at the united nations. getting russia to agree to u.n. security council resolutions 2118 and 2139 was a difficult task, far more difficult than it should have been considering that international law is clear about the deployment of chemical weapons and the use of humanitarian assistance as a tool of war. enforcement of these resolutions is critical. if assad does not make good on his commitment to turn over 10
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100% -- not 92%, 100% -- of his chemical weapons caches, there should be consequences. if he continues to starve and barrel bomb syrian children, there must be consequences. pressing for a chapter 7 authorization would help to put mr. putin and mr. assad to their -- hope to hold both of them, i should say, to their commitments. it would also pave the way for the u.n. to ramp up its cross-border humanitarian assistance, which is desperately needed inside of syria. madam president, when we met yesterday, president jarba was clear, there will be no momentum behind a political solution until the momentum on the battlefield changes.
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i've believed that for a long time. the united states has an opportunity here not only to help end the suffering in syria but to send a strong message to those that support the assad regime, including russia, iran, and hezbollah. i strongly urge the administration to consider the high stakes of allowing this conflict to continue unabated and i ask the administration to strongly consider supporting a more substantial effort to properly train and equip the moderate syrian opposition to they can reject extremist forc forces, defeat the regime and begin to rebuild syria. madam president, i would yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from maine. ms. collins: thank you, madam president. madam president, let me first
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ask unanimous consent that sarah gronin, a state department fellow from my office, be granted floor privileges for the remainder of this day. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. collins: thank you, madam president. madam president, i rise today to join with my colleagues, senator boxer, kirk, menendez and shaheen, in introducing the international violence against women act of 2014. this bill makes ending violence against women and girls a top diplomatic priority. it would permanently authorize the state department of global women's issue and the position of ambassador at large for global women's issues. it requires the administration to develop and implement an
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annual strategy to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls for each of the next five years. this legislation will ensure that the efforts begun under president george w. bush and continued by president barack obama to combat gender-based violence will be a priority for future administrations as well. madam president, we have witnessed great strides in women's equality in our own country and in much of the developed world over the past century. across vast swaths of the globe, however, violence against women and forced marriages are everyday occurrences. one out of three women worldwide
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will be physically, sexually or otherwise abused during her lifetime with rates reaching 70% in some countries. madam president, this violence ranges from domestic violence to rape and acid burnings to do doy deaths and so-called honor killings. such violence is often exacerbated in humanitarian emergencies and conflict settings. violence against women and girls is a human rights issue, a public health epidemic, and a barrier to solving global challenges such as extreme poverty, hiv-aids and conflict. madam president, the world has just seen an appalling example
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of women and girls being treated as property and bargaining chips in nigeria, where the terrorist group boko haram kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls and is threatening to sell them into sexual slavery and into forced marriages. tragically, there are reports that some have already been sold into child marriages. boko haram's leaders said girls should get married and never be educated. he has said -- quote -- "i will marry off a woman at the age of 12. i will marry off a girl at the age of 9." in fact, the very name of this terrorist group roughly translates to the phrase
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"western education is sinful." sadly, this is a viewpoint that is not just limited to terrorist leaders, though it is difficult to think of a more egregious example of abuse against girls than what we have just witnessed in nigeria. the international center for research on women says that 1-9 girls around the world is married before the age of 15. a harmful practice that deprives girls of their dignity and often their education, increases their health risks and perpetuates poverty. the practice of preventing women from obtaining their full potential by targeting them for violence and early marriage is still far too common in far too many countries around the world.
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the international violence against women act ensures that our country will take a leadership role in combating these problems. it establishes that it is the policy of the united states to take action to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls around the globe and to integrate and coordinate efforts to address gender-based violence into u.s. foreign policy and foreign assistance programs. specifically, our bill will foster efforts in four areas. first, it would increase legal and judicial protections by supporting laws and legal structures that prevent and appropriately respond to all forms of violence against women
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and girls, including honor killings and forced marriages. for example, our bill would support our state department's work with other countries to help those nations reform their legal systems by providing technical expertise and model laws and building the capacity of their police and judges. second, our bill would increase efforts to build health sector capacity, integrating programs to address violence against women and girls into existing health programs focused on children's survival, women's health, and hiv-aids prevention. third, our legislation will focus on preventing violence by changing community norms and attitudes against the
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acceptability of violence against women and girls. and, fourth, our bill would focus on reducing females' vulnerability to violence by improving their economic status and educational opportunities. efforts would ensure -- would include ensuring that women have access to job training and employment opportunities and increasing their right to own land and property, allowing them potentially to support themselves and their children. our bill would require the u.s. strategy to prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally to identify 5 to 20 eligible low- and middle-income countries for which comprehensive individual country plans would be developed. the bill requires that at least
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10% of u.s. assistance to prevent and respond to violence against females would be provided to nongovernmental organizations with priority given to those headed by women. madam president, as you well know, violence has a profoundly negative impact on the lives of women and girls. in addition to being a pressing human rights issue, such violence contributes to inequality and political instability, making it a security issue as well as a moral issue for all of us. i am committed to working with my colleagues to end violence against women and girls and to provide the assistance and
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resources necessary to achieve this goal and i am pleased to be the principal cosponsor of senator boxer's bill. thank you, madam president. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from wisconsin. mr. johnson: madam president, i'm pleased to recommend to the senate james d. peterson to be the united states district judge for the western district of wisconsin. jim has deep roots in wisconsin, having earned a bachelor's, master's and ph.d. from the university of wisconsin-madison before his first career as an associate professor of film studies at notre dame university. after a number of productive and successful years of academic life, his restlessness for intellectual challenge was energized when his wife, sue collins, interested him in the law as she was teaching legal
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writer at valparaiso university law school. they both returned to wisconsin where they each obtained their law degrees from the university. jim is currently the leader of the law firm godfried and khans international litigation working group and has handled a wade variety of commercial and constitutional disputes. he's worked as legal counsel in nearly two dozen patent disputes in wisconsin. in addition, he has appeared before the wisconsin supreme court, the seventh circuit court of appeals, the court of appeals for the federal circuit which hears appeals of patent cases from district courts across the country. this experience is important for the western district of wisconsin which oversees many complex intellectual property cases. since 2007, the western district of wisconsin has ranked among the 25 most popular courts for patent litigation largely due to the court's speed, commonly referred to as the rocket
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docket. jim is also the author of niewrmous academic -- numerous academic publications, many of which i had the opportunity to review during his application process. right after law school, he saw firsthand the challenges and requirements associated with being a judge when he served as the law clerk to the honorable david g.denninger of the wisconsin court of appeals. he's had a challenging and successful career as a legal practitioner i have no doubt that he will as a federal district court judge excel in yet another career for which he is well suited. jim has my full support, and i am happy to recommend him to the senate for swift confirmation. i'd like to conclude by thanking my colleague, senator baldwin, for the bipartisan process that resulted in the selection of this well-qualified jurist that will serve the nation and the people of wisconsin's western district well. the western district is currently facing a judicial emergency. the united states district judge
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kravitz continued to serve despite retiring four years ago and i appreciate her dedication. i have full confidence with jim's experience he will now be able to fill this void. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor. ms. baldwin: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from wisconsin. ms. baldwin: thank you. i rise this afternoon to urge my colleagues to confirm james peterson for the united states district court of the western district of wisconsin. and i want to start where my colleague left off which is to state that i am proud to have worked with senator johnson to put in place a nonpartisan federal commission and to process moving judicial nominations forward because the people of wisconsin deserve to have experienced and highly qualified judges working for them. and they deserve to have judicial vacancies filled on a
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timely basis. addressing vacate federal judgeships in wisconsin has been a top priority of mine since i was sworn in to the senate last year. i want to thank senator johnson for work to go find common ground with me on this very important issue for wisconsin. together we believe that james peterson will be an outstanding federal district judge, and his experience, qualifications and expertise will serve the western district of wisconsin and our nation very well. james peterson was among those recommended by our nominating commission, and together senator johnson and i submitted his name to the white house for consideration. and i'm so pleased that president obama nominated him to serve and that his nomination was reported out of the senate judiciary committee. for the last 14 years, jim's professional life has been devoted to the practice for the firm godfrey and kahn in
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madison, wisconsin where he is the leader of the firm's intellectual property litigation group. his work on behalf of his firm's national clients has been substantially before the united states district court for the western district of wisconsin. outside his practice, jim is a leader in the western district bar association whose mission is to work with attorneys, the court, and the public to facilitate the just, speedy, respectful and efficient resolution of all matters before the court. qualities that have been the hallmarks of the western district of wisconsin. and in an effort to foster the next generation of great lawyers, jim is a member of the adjunct faculty of the university of wisconsin law school where he has taught copy right law and public speaking workshops. i am proud to join senator
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johnson in supporting this nomination, and i'm proud to come before you and ask for you to confirm this judgeship. mr. peterson's confirmation today will end a vacancy that has lasted for more than five years and has been declared a judicial emergency. we are most grateful for the tireless commitment of soon-to-be really retired judge barbara crabb who has filled in during this vacancy. we're very grateful for her commitment. senator johnson and i agree on this nomination to the u.s. district court for the western district of wisconsin, and our joint support should send a strong message to the entire senate that he is the right choice for this judgeship. i urge you to confirm james d. peterson so that he can serve the people of wisconsin and our nation.
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i yield back. and i would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming. mr. enzi: i would ask that the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. enzi: madam president?
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the presiding officer: please proceed. mr. enzi: thank you. i would like to rise to offer an amendment to s. 2262 that would prevent the environmental protection agency from a massive regulatory outreach. i understand that under the current procedure that we're not allowed to do that, but i'm going to go ahead and explain it so that when i can bring this amendment up, people will already know about it and join me in voting for it. it's similar to an amendment offered last september to the energy efficiency bill. unfortunately, the senate majority leader blocked amendments from being considered, and i'm hoping that doesn't happen this time. my amendment is simple and straightforward. it promotes the right of each state to deal with its own problems. it returns the regulation to regional haez -- haze where it belongs, in the hands of state officials who are more familiar with the problem and know the best way to address it. i hope my colleagues will
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support my effort. the environmental protection agency's move to partially disapprove of the state of wyoming's regional haze will create an economic and bureaucratic nightmare that will have a devastating impact on western economies. the decision by the e.p.a. ignores more than a decades' worth of work on this subject by officials in my home state and seems to be more designed to regulate coal out of existence than to regulate haze. the haze we most need to regulate in fact seems to be the one that's clouding the vision of the e.p.a. as it promotes a plan that would impose onerous regulations on power plants that will in turn pass those increased costs in the form of higher energy prices on to consumers. that's that middle-class folks that we keep talking about. it will also increase the cost for manufacturers and that will drive them overseas. so that will eliminate jobs. so we're talking about a lot of impact here.
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that tells me the e.p.a.'s purpose is to ensure that no opportunity to impose its chosen agenda on the nation is wasted. it doesn't seem to matter to them. their proposed rule flies directly in the face of the state's traditional and legal role in addressing air quality issues. when congress passed the 1977 amendments to the clean air act to regulate regional haze they very clearly gave the states the lead authority. now the e.p.a. has grabbed the steering wheel to head this efforts in its own previously determined direction. that isn't the kind of team work and cooperation congress intended. the goal of regulating regional haze is to improve visibility in our national parks and wilderness areas. the stated legislative purpose for that authority is purely for aesthetic value and not to regulate public health. most importantly, the e.p.a. shouldn't be using regulations
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to pick winners and losers in our national energy market. the cost for this rule is in the billions, and the bureaucratic evaluation says it will still have little or no actual effect. why would we force the spending of billions for little or no actual effect? this is a state issue, and congress recognized that states would know how to determine what the best regulatory approach would be to find and implement a solution to the problem. the courts then reaffirmed this position by ruling in favor of the state's primacy on regional haze several times. the e.p.a. ignored all of that clear precedent and instead handed a top-down approach that ignored the will and expertise of the state of wyoming and other states. this inexplicable position flies in the fate of the state of wyoming's strong and commonsense approach to addressing regional haze in a reasonable and
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cost-effective manner. now, i invite everybody to come to wyoming. we have the clear skies. you can see more miles there than you can out here. of course, a lot of it out here is humidity, i think, but we don't have the regional haze that they're talking about. the e.p.a.'s approach will be much more costly and will have a tremendous impact on the economy and the quality of life, not only in wyoming but in neighboring states as well. clearly, we can't allow this to happen. every family knows when the price of energy goes up, it's their economic security costing more, as well as their hopes and dreams for the future that are threatened and all too often destroyed. the e.p.a.'s determination to take such an approach would be understandable if it would create better results than the state plan. it doesn't. that's another reason why it makes no sense for the e.p.a. to
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overstep its authority on the clean air act to force wyoming to comply with an all too costly plan that in the end provide the people of wyoming and america with no real benefits. the plan doesn't even take into account other sources of haze in wyoming such as wildfires. wildfires are a problem on wyoming's plains and mountains every year. it's a major cause of haze in the west. it makes no sense for the e.p.a. to draft a plan that fails to take into consideration the biggest natural cause of the very problem they're supposed to be solving. now, the forest service could do a lot of prevention if forest prance didn't get delayed. the state of wyoming has spent over a decade producing an air quality plan that's reasonable, productive, cost-effective and focused on the problem at hand. the e.p.a. has taken an unnecessary and unreasonable approach that violates the
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legislatively granted job of state regulators to address this issue. we cannot afford to increase the cost of energy to families, schools and vital public services by implementing an e.p.a. plan that will adequately address the issue of regional haze. i know my colleagues will see the importance of this matter and support my amendment that will stop the e.p.a. in its tracks and end its interference with wyoming's efforts to address this issue. it only makes sense to me that wyoming's plan be given a chance to work. it's more than a ten-year effort, and it will make a difference, and not at the cost that will be imposed. it's only fair. it's the right thing to do. i ask for the support of my colleagues. i thank the chair and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. sanders: i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sanders: madam president, as i think most americans know, about four years ago, the supreme court rendered a decision which i happen to believe is one of the worst in the history of the supreme court, and that is their decision regarding citizens united, and as a result of that decision, what they said is that corporations are people and that individuals could spend an unlimited, unlimited sum of money in elections, and by unlimited, i mean hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars if not billions of dollars, quite as much as they want through independent expenditures, and i think many americans observed the repercussions of that decision just last month.
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a gentleman named sheldon edelson, one of the wealthiest people in this country, worth many billions, held what was called the edelson primary in nevada, and what he did is invited prospective republican candidates for president to come to nevada to chat with him to tell him their views, and if he decides to support one of those candidates, they will end up receiving in all likelihood hundreds of millions of dollars. but it is not just sheldon edelson. probably even more significantly when we talk about the impact of citizens united and we talk about the flood of money coming from the billionaire class into the political process, it's important to talk about the koch brothers. i understand there has been a lot of criticism of majority leader reid because he has talked about the koch brothers, but i think the majority leader is exactly right. the issue here is not personal. i don't know if the koch brothers are nice guys or not nice guys. that's not the issue.
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the issue is the impact this billionaire family, the second wealthiest family in america, is having on the political process, and second of all and even more importantly, what do they stand for? who are they? why are they pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the political process? i have a problem, to tell you the truth, whether somebody is a right winger or a left winger, i have a real problem with these rich guys spending huge sums of money. but at the end of the day what is important to understand is what do they want. why are they spending so much money in politics? why are they supporting candidates throughout this country running for the senate, running for the house. clearly they'll be heavily involved in the next presidential election. what do they stand for? that's the issue. and it disturbs me very much that the media hasn't been talking about that. what do these guys stand for? what do they want? now, many americans know that
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the koch brothers provided the main source of funding for the creation of the tea party. that's fine. and many americans know that the koch brothers want to repeal the affordable care act. they've run a lot of ads supporting candidates who want to repeal the affordable care act. and that's their view and that's fine as well. but what i think most americans don't know is that the koch brothers want to repeal virtually every major piece of legislation that has been passed in the last 80 years to help the middle class, to help working families, to help the elderly, to help the children, to help low-income people. their view, their ideological view is that we should eliminate or substantially cut back on all of those programs. now, in 1980, madam president,
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david koch, one of the koch brothers, was the vice vice presidential candidate of the libertarian party. in fact, he helped fund the libertarian party in that year. and i want to read to you and discuss with you just a few of the excerpts from the 1980 libertarian party platform that david koch ran on. and people may say, well, that was back in 1980. but you know what? it is my impression that their views haven't changed one iota, that they are funding many, many organizations all over this country who essentially espouse those very same views that david koch ran on in 1980. here's the first quote that was in the 1980 libertarian party platform that david koch ran on as vice vice presidential candie
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it helped fund. he said "we favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt and increasingly oppressive social security system." that's their view. and that shouldn't surprise anybody. these guys do not believe that government should be involved in health care, in retirement security. it is totally consistent with what they believe. but when americans see ads on television paid for by david koch, i hope they understand that these guys eventually want to see -- probably not tomorrow -- the repeal of social security. and they want to privatize it. they don't want it to exist. now, what is the reality? the reality is that the overwhelming majority of the american people disagree with the koch brothers. the reality is that social security is probably the most successful federal program in the history of our country.
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for more than 78 years in good times and bad, social security has provided every single benefit owed to every eligible american. that's in good times, bad times, recession, boom, whatever it was. before social security was created, nearly half of seniors lived in poverty. today while still too high, that number is 9.1%, and gone from over 50% down to 9.1% largely because of social security. and here is the main point. according to virtually every poll that i have seen, including the latest national journal poll on the subject, 76% of the american people do not want to cut social security at all, something at issue that you and i were involved in. do not want to cut social security. they sure, sure as heck do not want to repeal social security. so when you see the ads on
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television being paid for by the koch brothers, understand where they are coming from in terms of social security. now let me give you another quote. and this is an exact quote from the 1980 platform of the libertarian party, david koch, vice presidential candidate. quote -- "we favor the abolition of medicaid -- of medicare and medicaid." abolition. what does that mean? it means that if you are a senior citizen, 70 years of age, not feeling well, and you go to the doctor, the doctor diagnoses you with cancer. you're not going to have medicare there for you. and if you don't have a lot of money, how are you going to get the health care that you need? you know what? you may not. because according to the koch
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brothers, the federal government should not be involved in public health insurance programs like medicare and medicaid. what happens if you're a low-income person? what happens if your kid is on the children's health insurance program, called doctor dinosaur in vermont. it covers all the states in this country, millions of kids getting their health insurance through the children's health insurance program. what is the kpwroer point of --h brothers point of view? we should eliminate it. according to the latest polls that i have seen on this subject, 81% of the american people do not want to cut medicare benefits at all, and 60% of the american people don't want to cut medicaid benefits at all because they understand that in these tough times it is terribly important that we have guaranteed health care programs for our people. and yet, the view of the koch brothers is that we should end
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medicare and medicaid. so again, when you see ads on television, understand who is paying for them. now, madam president, as you know, we have been discussing the minimum wage bill. and you and i agree that it is absolutely imperative that we raise the minimum wage. i think $10.10, the bill we had on the floor last week, is a start. i would go further. but i think most americans understand that a family, breadwinner in a family who is making all of $7.25 an hour or $14,000, $15,000 a year, that is no wage upon which anyone can live. and yet, when you read the platform that david koch ran on -- and again, their success has been, is that where their
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ideas were thought to be pretty crazy and kooky in 1980, he got 1% of the vote and ran because they thought ronald reagan was much too liberal. 1980. today these ideas are becoming mainstream. they are in the ryan budget passed by the house. they are reflected by many actions right here by my republican senate colleagues. one example is when we talk about the minimum wage, some of us think we've got to raise it. their view, but the koch brothers said in 1980, and i believe it is their view today, -- quote -- "we support repeal of all laws which impede the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws." so this is not a debate about whether you raise the minimum wage to $10.10, you do what they're doing in seattle,
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washington, over a period of time, raising it to $10, $15 an hour. that is not their debate. their debate is we should repeal the concept of the minimum wage. what does that mean in real terms? it means in high unemployment areas in this country where workers are desperate for jobs, if an employer says i'm going to give you three bucks an hour and you say i can't live on three bucks, the employer says i've got 20 other people who are prepared to take that job, that's their goal. that's their goal. they do not believe the federal government should be involved in providing at least a minimum wage for the workers of this country. they believe, among other things, that we should abolish the united states postal service. and i want to get into that very much. but their view is, again, postal service, a federal government program. not a question of have a debate,
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how do you strengthen the postal service? what do you do? what do you not do? they want to abolish the united states postal service. let me go to another quote from david koch which i think is the most interesting of all. this is their philosophy. quote -- "we oppose all government welfare, relief projects and aid to the poor programs. all these government programs are privacy invaded, paternalistic, demeaning and inefficient. the proper source of help for such persons is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals." all right, i want to put into english what they're saying. what they're saying is they want to get rid of food stamps. they want to get rid of all nutrition programs, all
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affordable housing programs, meals on wheels programs -- which help vulnerable seniors. congregate meal programs, head start, which obviously is important to millions of working families and their children. so you ask, well, what happens if i am hungry and there is no food stapl program because they want to get rid of all these programs because they think the federal government shut not be involved in these issues. what do we do when people are hungry and can't find jobs? they can go to their local church, local charity. maybe they will get some help. maybe they won't. in other words, we are back to the days of charles dickens where ordinary people and lower-income people have no rights and no benefits. and the only way they get help
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as if some charity is there to dole out some money. i don't believe that that is where the american people are, and i don't believe that is what the american people want. back in 1980, the libertarian party had a rather bold proposal, and they said -- and i quote -- "we support the eventual repeal of all taxation. essentially what they're saying is no more government. that's it, no more government. now, madam president, there's going to be a vote in a few minutes, so i will be back on this issue. but i just wanted to point out to what degree these folks who are worth at least $80 billion, whose wealth increased last year
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by $12 billion, who have indicated that they are prepared to spend as much as it takes to elect people who to some degree or another -- i'm sure not all the candidates they supported agree with everything they say. but they know what they're doing. they're smart. so they are spending huge sums of money to create an america in which the wealthiest people will get huge tax breaks while working families, the middle class, the elderly, the children, and the sick will be left out on the street all by themselves. that is not the vision of america that the american people believe in. i doubt that there are 5% or 10% of the american people who believe in this vision. maybe less than that. but when you have $80 billion,
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and you're worth that much, and when you can spend unlimited sums of money, you will have a huge impact on the political process, and you will have candidates who talk about this perspective, twhol defend this -- who will defend this point of view because that's where their money for campaigns comes from, rather than talking about the needs of working families or ordinary americans. so, madam president, i hope very much -- let me -- actually maybe the as are last point i want to make on this is that 34 years ago, koch brothers said we urge the repeal of federal campaign finance laws and the immediate abolition of the despotic federal election commission, end of quote. they have come so far in 34 years that that is now the position of a number of
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republicans, including, as i understand it, the chairman of the national republican party. and what does that mean? it means that if you repeal all campaign finance laws, the koch brothers and other billionaires will not just be able to spend as much as they want on independent campaign expenditures. they will be able to give money directly to the candidates. the presiding officer: all time for debate has expired. mr. sanders: so let me conclude by saying i hope everybody pays attention to what the koch brothers stand for. and with that, i would yield the floor. the presiding officer: under the previous order, there will be two minutes of debate prior to a vote on the talwani nomination. mr. sanders: madam president, i would yield -- i would ask for unanimous consent to yield back time on both sides. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. the question occurs on the nomination.
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is there a sufficient second? to the yeas and nays. there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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